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White House envisions shift of Corps functions to Transportation, Interior

As part of sweeping Executive Branch reform announced late last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposes to move Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works functions—coastal and inland commercial navigation programs; flood and storm damage reduction; and, aquatic ecosystem restoration—from the Department of Defense to the Departments of Transportation and Interior (DOT, DOI).

“Aligning and consolidating Corps mission areas into those of DOT and DOI would increase consistency of Federal policy and actions in both transportation and natural resource management, resulting in more rational public policy outcomes. It would also enable the broadest possible view of both transportation and land and water management infrastructure, thereby leading to improved Federal investment decisions,” according to OMB’s 130-page “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations” report.

“Consolidating the Corps’ regulatory responsibilities for permitting of non-Federal projects within DOI would simplify the infrastructure permitting process for stakeholders who often have to navigate multiple Federal agency processes when seeking project permits and approvals,” authors observe. “Moving regulatory responsibilities, including those related to the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act, within DOI’s existing permitting programs would produce administrative efficiencies and opportunities for simplified interaction with stakeholders.”

“Delivering Government Solutions” reflects more than a year of White House staff planning to make the federal government more efficient, effective and accountable, and was prompted by an OMB directive in a May 2017 Executive Order from President Donald Trump. Other major proposals include merging the Departments of Education and Labor into a single cabinet agency; and, consolidating economic assistance resources to a new Bureau of Economic Growth within the Department of Commerce.

A White House statement upon the report’s release noted that the Administration has reduced the footprint of the federal government as evidenced in agencies’ repeal of “a historic number of a regulations … This plan will serve as a cornerstone for a productive, bipartisan dialogue around making the federal government work for the 21st century. Instead of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to reform, the Trump Administration’s plan to reorganize the government proposes solutions tailored to each agency’s mission. President Trump recognizes that today’s Executive Branch is not equipped to meet Americans’ 21st century needs.”